Lucky New Yorkers -- Mayor Bloomberg has named next week as National Book Awards Week. Festivities will kick off with a 5 Under 35 celebration on Monday and continue through the 60th National Book Awards on Wednesday. About a month ago I blogged about the National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 selection (Ceridwen Dovey, C.E. Morgan, Lydia Peelle, Karen Russell and Josh Weil made the cut), and Trisha blogged about the National Book Award finalists here.
an enveloping new novel. . . [McCann] lends a forgiving tenderness that invigorates the timeless notion that we are not really all the different under the skin, each of us longing for love, for beauty, for those connections that will quell our loneliness.
The National Book Foundation will also announce the winner of the “Best of the National Book Award Fiction” category – ever. (We blogged about that award, too.) My vote's for Faulkner.
Everyone from GalleyCat to Publisher’s Weekly to the Huffington Post has been blogging about the big news from Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket). Yesterday afternoon, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers announced that Handler has signed a new five-book deal. The Series of Unfortunate Events was previously published with HarperCollins, and Handler moved publishers because his editor, Susan Rich, got a new job at Little, Brown. The last Series of Unfortunate Events book – The End – came out on Friday, October 13, 2006 (it was also the 13th book).
The five-book deal includes four new Lemony Snicket-authored books (the first book is due out in 2012), and a separate YA novel—written by Handler, not Snicket—due out in 2011.
I loved the Series of Unfortunate Events, and I’m curious about what Handler has in store for the new four-part series. Will he continue writing about the Baudelaire orphans, or dream up some new characters to curse? I am really excited about the non-Snicket YA book. Handler’s written a lot of interesting stuff in his career – from a book of short narratives about love (Adverbs) to an essay for the New York Times Magazine about giving away money . . . not to mention his stint as an accordion player for The Magnetic Fields, one of my favorite bands – and it will be interesting to see what he comes up with for this project. No word yet on plot details, but we’ll keep you posted.
Any Snicket fans out there looking forward to the new series?
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Most scientists agree that there have been five mass extinctions in Earth's history. Kolbert, a respected environmental journalist, believes we're on the verge of number six, the first since the dinosaurs were wiped out more than 50 million years ago. What does this mean for the planet? We'll find out when The Sixth Extinction appears sometime next year.
From our archives: a review of the audio version of Kolbert's previous book, Field Notes from a Catastrophe.
By Gail Caldwell
August 2010, Random House
An unbelievably honest, moving and heartbreaking account of Caldwell’s midlife friendship with fellow writer Caroline Knapp, who died suddenly of lung cancer in 2002. Caldwell and Knapp shared everything—profound love for their dogs, Clementine and Lucille, a history of alcohol addiction and a passion for writing. Read it—and try not to weep.
"I have a photograph from one of those summers at Chocorua, framing the backs of my dog and Caroline's, Clementine and Lucille, who are silhouetted in the window seat and looking outside. It is the classic dog photo, capturing vigilance and loyalty: two tails resting side by side, two animals glued to their post. What I didn't realize for years is that in the middle distance of the picture, through the window and out to the fields beyond, you can make out the smallest of figures—an outline of Caroline and me walking down the hill. We must have been on our way to the lake, and the dogs, now familiar with our routine, had assumed their positions. Caroline's boyfriend, Morelli, a photographer, had seen the beauty of the shot and grabbed his camera.
I discovered this image the year after she died, and it has always seemed like a clue in a painting—a secret garden revealed only after it is gone . . . . Like most memories tinged with the final chapter, mine carry the weight of sadness. What they never tell you about grief is that missing someone is the simple part."
Our November print edition featured a roundup of Hollywood biographies, from American Rebel: The Life of Clint Eastwood to How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood.
The books we covered were mostly in the “classic” Hollywood camp (Doris Day, Grace Kelly), but you’re in luck if you’d rather read about contemporary movie stars. December 1, Transit Publishing (the force that brought us Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson) will release Brangelina: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie by celebrity journalist Ian Halperin (also the author of Unmasked). The small Montreal-based publishing house is hoping for a hit—Brangelina will have a 100,000 copy first printing.
According to Transit, the book will include “exclusive revelations and personal anecdotes.” Get ready for “shocking new information about superstar Jolie” and “startling discoveries about [her] past.”
Also look out for Kiefer Sutherland: Living Dangerously in January 2010 and Little Girl Lost: Money, Fame and Britney Spears in April, both from Transit.
Do you like to read biographies of celebrities? Are there any superstars out there who still need a tell-all. . . or has it all been done?
It may sound pretty outrageous--kidnapping, pedophilia, skeletons in outhouses, fornication with ghosts, narration by hound dogs and bobcats--but Donald Harington's 12th novel, With, will surprise and delight you. Harington hails from the Ozarks and, in the tradition of William Faulkner and his invented Yoknapatawpha County, writes about a fictional backwater town called Stay More, Arkansas. . . [Harington] never falters, and you never doubt him for a second.
--Becky Ohlsen's 2004 review of With by Donald Harington
In an obituary in the Arkansas-Democrat Gazette, poet Miller Williams said: “Arkansas is going to be less than it was now that he’s gone. . . His presence made us feel that being here mattered. He made everything we were around seem significant and he kept alive for us things that we would have let slip away.”
Harington was 73. He won the Robert Penn Warren Award for fiction and was inducted into the Arkansas Writers Hall of Fame for his mystical, funny novels about life in the Ozarks.
Veterans Day has been an official holiday in the United States since 1938. Our November issue has a roundup of new titles to remember the soldiers who fought in battles past and present, but there are plenty more in our archives—so we've compiled a list of some memorable military histories. Do you have a favorite?
20th Century Battlefields by Peter and Dan Snow
Medal of Honor by Peter Collier, photography by Nick Del Calzo
The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw
The Coldest Winter by David Halberstam
Franklin and Winston by Jon Meacham
Now the Drum of War by Robert Roper
Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour by Joseph Persico
11 Days in December by Stanley Weintraub
Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
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I read a lot of blurbs* -- the frequently overblown, sometimes clichéd, always enthusiastic statements, typically by one author about another author’s book. Because I see so many blurbs, they rarely impress me. So imagine my surprise when I opened a January galley from Simon & Schuster and found a simple two-page printout titled “Advance Praise for Elena Gorokhova’s A Mountain of Crumbs.” Contained therein is perhaps the most impressive collection of blurbs for a single book that I’ve ever encountered.
The first blurb is from Billy Collins, acclaimed poet and former U.S. poet laureate, who describes Gorokova’s account of growing up in the Soviet Union as “the Russian equivalent of Angela’s Ashes.” Next is Frank McCourt himself, the author of Angela’s Ashes, who died in July. Before his death, McCourt composed a blurb in which he ruminates about Gorokhova’s “rich experience” and wonders why the book is “so damn readable.” The memoir also garners praise from Nobel Prize winner J.M. Coetzee (“an enthralling read”); Sergei Krushchev, son of former Soviet prime minister Nikita Krushchev (“an endlessly Russian quest for self-redemption”); novelist Ursula Hegi (“gorgeous and evocative”) and Carlos Eire (“every page bears witness to the deepest longing of the human heart”). Eire knows a thing or two about growing up under a Communist regime, having won the National Book Award for Waiting for Snow in Havana, a dazzling account of his youth in Cuba.
So what did I do after reading all those blurbs? I started reading A Mountain of Crumbs myself, and decided in short order that BookPage readers would want to know more about Gorokhova and her “rich,” “readable,” “gorgeous and evocative” memoir. Stay tuned for an interview with the author in the January issue of BookPage. And never underestimate the power of a blurb.
* Did you know? The word “blurb” was coined by American author Gelet Burgess, who in 1907 commissioned a special jacket for his novel Are You A Bromide? and christened the young woman pictured on the cover as “Miss Belinda Blurb.” Miss Blurb had many wonderful things to say about the novel (“This book has 42 carat THRILLS in it”) and her last name was forever after associated with effusive praise for a book.
In looking over the lineup of 2010 fiction, we have noticed an abundance of historical novels. Which ones will you be reading? What is your favorite time period to read about?
I loved Girl With a Pearl Earring, so I can’t wait for Tracy Chevalier’s January release, Remarkable Creatures. In the novel, 19th century fossil hunter Mary Anning discovers her gift to “find what on one can see.” She is barred from the British academic community, however, and falls in love with “an impossible man.” Watch an interview with Tracy Chevalier:
A few years ago BookPage reviewed a “magnificent” biography of Emily Dickinson that provided “a comprehensive portrait of the poet's life and art.” In February, you can read a fictionalized version of the Dickinson’s life, The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson by Jerome Charyn. Dickinson biographer Brenda Wineapple writes that Charyn imagines the poet full “of mischievousness, brilliance, desire, and wit (all which she possessed) and then boldly sets her amidst a throng of historical, fictional, and surprising characters just as hard to forget as she is.”
Historical fiction buffs will also want to look out for Karen Harper’s The Queen’s Governess, a Tudor drama told from the perspective of Elizabeth I’s governess; Ellen Horan’s 31 Bond Street, about a 19th-century murder scandal in New York City (the book will be “difficult for any reader to put down,” according to Ron Rash); and Lynn Cullen’s The Creation of Eve, about Renaissance female painter Sofonisba Anguissola.